Walnut Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

What exactly is the difference between cooking and baking?  Most people have a certain idea of what distinguishes the two.  Spaghetti and meatballs:  cooking.  Carrot cake:  baking.

IMG_2713Technically, I think cooking refers to the general process of food being cooked.  Baking is a specific form of cooking that prepares food by dry heat, like in an oven.

IMG_2707In my mind, cooking means preparing a meal, making separate components, and actively configuring  something savory.  Baking seems to require a more scientific approach; measuring, weighing, sifting, and ultimately putting something in the oven.

IMG_2714By that definition, I much prefer baking over cooking.  I love the methodical process of precisely measuring each ingredient and adding them one by one to the mixer bowl.  Then the baking pans are neatly tucked in the oven, left to do their magic.

IMG_2710Plus, baking usually entails cakes, pastries, and other sweet treats so the outcome almost always tastes delicious, even if it’s not quite what was planned.  This carrot cake is no exception–dense, moist, and the perfect texture thanks to the grated carrots and chopped walnuts.  Once the layers are cool, they get a healthy coating of cream cheese frosting.

IMG_2705I opted for a little decoration by sprinkling additional chopped walnuts on the sides of the cake.  I also made some cute little carrot flowers by thinly slicing a carrot diagonally and using a small flower cookie cutter.  IMG_2715If you’re searching for a springtime cake, look no further!  You can’t go wrong with this walnut carrot cake.

Find the printable recipe here.

Walnut Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups grated raw carrots
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple, with juice
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat the oven the 350°.  Grease and lightly flour, or spray with non-stick cooking spray, two nine-inch round pans.  Line the pans with waxed paper, leaving some edges for later removal, and lightly grease again.  Cream together oil, eggs, and sugar.  Add vanilla, carrots, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Mix just until blended.  Stir in pineapple with juice and walnuts.  Mix well, and pour evenly into prepared pans.  Bake for 50-55 minutes, until golden brown on top and a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely before removing from pans and frosting.

Frosting, slightly adapted from Baking Illustrated:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened but still cool
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

Mix the cream cheese, butter, sour cream, and vanilla in the bowl of a standing mixer until combined.  Scrape the sides of the bowl, and add the confectioners’ sugar in 3-4 additions on low speed.  Increase to medium-high speed, and mix until the frosting is light and fluffy.  When the cake is completely cool, remove from pans.  Slice the tops of the cakes as necessary, for an even surface.  Place the first layer on a cake plate and frost, then carefully place the second layer on top, and frost.  Add the remaining frosting to cover the sides.  If desired, add extra chopped walnuts to the sides of the cake.  To cut the carrot shapes, slice a thin layer of carrot, lengthwise, and use a small cookie cutter.  Keep refrigerated once covered with the cream cheese frosting.

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